“And the Lord said: ‘[…] this people draw near with their mouth and honor me with their lips, while their hearts are far from me, and their fear of me is a commandment taught by men’” (Isaiah 29:13).
Thousands of years ago, God appeared to the children of Israel as they labored under Egyptian slavery. They knew God only by name, but He revealed Himself to them as their personal God, the Great I AM who had claimed them for His own and who would deliver them from their oppressors. He did so with many signs and wonders, destroying Egypt and bringing His people out in safety. For the next forty years, He taught them more about Himself through His law and His actions, finally bringing them to the land He had promised them generations before.
But as time passed, the people of Israel quickly forgot God. They knew His laws, and they kept them outwardly, but in their hearts they were little different from the idol-worshiping nations around them. They claimed to be the people of God, but their actions demonstrated that they cared nothing for Him. Though their lips sang His praises, their hearts bowed down before the idol of their own desires.
God was not pleased with His people for their lack of true worship. But He was also not done with them. They were His people, and He would claim them for His own again. He announced through the prophet Isaiah that He would once again “‘do wonderful things with this people, with wonder upon wonder’” (30:14a). As He had with their ancestors, He would show them His greatness. Face-to-face with His glory, their worship would no longer be based only on tradition handed down through the generations. They would experience God for themselves, and they would worship Him personally.